At least two proposed roading projects, favoured by the former National-led Government, will now be funded by the Government bringing relief to major civil contracting companies needing security of work in the future.
Penlink, in the north of the city will provide a new and much-needed connection between the Whangaparaoa Peninsula and the Northern Motorway (through Stillwater to Dairy Flat), while Mill Road in the south should improve the connection from Manukau through Takanini to Drury.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford says $200 million will be allocated to get the road built within the next decade.
Announced this week, the two projects are part of a new 10-year funding package for Auckland transport released by Twyford and Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
Twyford says the package also represents “the biggest infrastructure programme in New Zealand’s history” so is expected to exceed the cost of National’s 10-year programme, which it replaces and was costed at $26.9 billion last year.
Representing the companies who will build these projects, CCNZ welcomes the release of more details about the Auckland planned transport investments including the agreement to get on with Penlink and Mill Road which have been talked about for years.
“The sooner we get this work underway the better,” says its chief Peter Silcock.
“The civil construction industry is aligning its capability and capacity to deliver on the government’s investment in public transport particularly around rail and light rail.
“However, our concern is that a significant gap in infrastructure construction work has developed as state highway construction comes to an end and new public transport investments wind there way through the tortuous process of funding, financing, design, property procurement and consenting.
“The critical issue is that we need to retain and build our capacity and capability to deliver on the government’s infrastructure agenda. A reduction in the volume of work available over the next few years is the last thing we need.”
Stephen Selwood, Infrastructure New Zealand chief executive, anticipates the roading projects would cost around $800 million to build and and at least one of them will be tolled. “Penlink will be tolled. It will probably be in the $200 million to $300m range as a two-lane which will be woefully inadequate.
“It should be nearer $400 million as four lanes. A PPP is the obvious outcome. It was originally proposed in the mid-1990s by the Rodney District Council.”
The Mill Road project was more complicated (costing around $600 million) so was unlikely to be a PPP, Selwood adds, and Central and local government funding would be more likley involved.
A survey by the Auckland Chamber of Commerce of over 800 businesses affected by the Penlink project showed a majority would be happy to fund the development by tolls, if it meant getting Penlink done faster.
Chamber head Michael Barnett said 83 percent of those surveyed were willing to pay anywhere between $2.50 and $3 per trip.
“There is an acceptance that in order to get it done, there may be a cost, but most people see it as a huge benefit and time saver – like the Waterview tunnel.”
He adds Labour had probably missed its opportunity to include a plan for a third road – an east-west link – in Thursday’s announcement.
“If you’re going to make any major announcements in Auckland at the moment, you would have said Mill Rd, east-west, and Penlink.”
Fuel hikes looming
Meantime, the country is heading to boast the most expensive fuel in the western world as the Land Transport Management (Regional Fuel Tax) Amendment Bill, (expected to be implemented in July) provides for Auckland Council (or any other council) to levy an expected 10c per litre on Auckland petrol sales.
This is in addition to a fuel excise duty increase of between nine and 12 cents a litre.
An Auckland Council survey last month found 52 percent in favour of the planned 11.5 cent a litre tax, and 43 percent against. However, it did not say how many of the 4000 surveyed use private transport or public trasnport, other than to say ‘support was strongest in central Auckland at 57 percent. The survey of was also carried out before the Government announced that it wanted to hike its fuel excise.